Now that the Missionary Ridge Fire is over, residence are battling floods that are leaving up tp 10 feet of debris on the roads and inside several houses.

By Joshua Moore
Herald City Editor

Early morning rains Wednesday sent a wave of ash, mud and debris cascading down from Missionary Ridge, flooding fields and roads and stranding some residents north and east of Durango.

The rain began falling late Tuesday night but intensified at about 3 a.m., said Lt. Dan Bender, a spokesman for the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office.

Stevens Creek and other areas on the western slope of Missionary Ridge quickly reached flood level, sending a wave of mud and water up to 10 feet deep across East Animas Road (County Road 250), Bender said. Crews from the La Plata County Road & Bridge Department cleared much of the road Wednesday morning, although the 8700 block of East Animas Road, near Stevens Creek, remained closed.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning Wednesday morning for Southwest Colorado and Southeast Utah, meaning flooding is occurring or is imminent. The warning had been set to expire at 10 a.m. but was extended until 4 p.m. because the saturated soils created the potential for more flooding.

More storms, some with heavy rain, were expected to move into La Plata County Wednesday, the Weather Service said.

Most of the damage from Wednesday’s rains were to fields and ditches, Bender said.

“The flooding and debris was much worse than Saturday’s (damage),” Bender said. “We have extensive property damage. The only thing I haven’t heard of is any mud in-side people’s homes.”

The rain also triggered mudslides near Vallecito Reservoir. County Road 501, west of the reservoir, was also closed early Wednesday. The road was passable by four-wheel-drive vehicles Wednesday morning, but the Weather Service urged residents to avoid the areas around Lemon and Vallecito reservoirs.

The area east of Vallecito received up to 2.5 inches of rain overnight, while the area between Vallecito and Lemon Reservoir received between 1.75 and 2.2 inches of moisture. Between three-quarters of an inch and 1.9 inches of rain fell in the area between Lemon Reservoir and the Animas Valley, the Weather Service said.

Bender said school buses were unable to make pickups on East Animas Road or County Road 501 and students in those areas were urged to remain home until the roads were completely cleared.

Bender said the mudslides over the past few days have created the potential for more widespread flooding.

“The channels have been so flooded with debris that they’re completely clogged, so it may begin affecting other areas and homes,” Bender said.